The Sint Maarten team knew that setting up a central and autonomous authority to implement over $500 million in sustainable development and disaster and climate resilient projects would not be an easy task. Worldwide, there are state agencies and enterprises tasked with overseeing different elements of industry and infrastructure, but they usually only account for one sector.
To ensure the Sint Maarten Trust Fund could be effectively implemented, there needed to be at the heart one entity – a centralized project implementation organization or CPIO – to co-ordinate the gargantuan task of rebuilding after the devastation wrought by a once-in-a-generation hurricane and make sure that the next time around, the country would be prepared as best as it could to withstand future events. That entity needed to be free from political and other external influences, well-resourced, and with rigorous protocols in place to ensure accountability to the people of Sint Maarten, the beneficiaries, and the Government of the Netherlands, funding the projects.
In 2019, through an Act of Parliament, Sint Maarten established the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB), a centralized project implementation unit (CPIU), entrusting it with the responsibility of helping the country build back better.
The NRBP manages multiple projects on behalf of the government and avoids draining the already limited capacity with each of the government ministries, creating efficiencies of scale. Given the massive scope of work of each project supported by the Trust Fund, the NRPB was created as a type of activity hub to easily consolidate the logistics necessary to get these projects started and completed within optimal quality and time.
The organization also works closely with local and international NGOs and the private sector to improve the quality of life for Sint Maarteners. The World Bank, as the administrator of the Trust Fund, works closely with the NRPB, offering technical support on the World Bank’s policies, procedures, and guidelines, and ensuring accountability and transparency in the portfolio.
In April 2023, the NRPB team hosted a South-South knowledge exchange forum for a delegation from the Suriname Ministry of Finance, jointly facilitated by the World Bank Country Office for Guyana and Suriname and the Inter-American Development Bank office in Suriname, and supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund Program Secretariat.
“It is important that Suriname can benefit from Sint Maarten’s existing operational model and use the shared knowledge to refine and define its own path. By leveraging the other’s experiences, both PIUs can be stronger, together,” said Lilia Burunciuc, Country Director, Caribbean.
Knowledge Shared = Knowledge Squared
From April 3 to April 6, a delegation of the Government of Suriname, accompanied by colleagues from the World Bank and the IDB, engaged with the NRPB team, delving deep into the fundamentals of setting up and running the organization.
The discussion explored:
· The legal framework required to establish the NRPB, including the Act of Parliament that formalized its existence and mandate.
· The internal structure of the organization, including the role and functions of each department.
· The overall performance since establishment, including monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure feedback from staff and stakeholders is adequately considered and actioned.
The delegation also spent a day touring the Trust Fund’s projects, to gain valuable insight about the practical application of the NRPB’s operational strategy. They also visited two of the Trust Fund’s biggest projects, the Princess Juliana International Airport and the Sint Maarten Medical Center. While these are not part of the NRPB’s project portfolio, they are strategically important to the overall execution of the Trust Fund’s objective and the country’s infrastructure and service delivery to the people, and there is close collaboration among all project implementation units.
“The value of this knowledge exchange goes beyond a four-day workshop. This is the NRPB’s first opportunity to share its unique context to the advantage of another like-minded entity,” said Toyin Jagha, Program Manager, Sint Maarten Trust Fund.
Within four years, the NRPB – with the technical and logistical support of the World Bank – has managed to create an implementation model that fits the unique characteristics of small developing states, particularly, Caribbean countries vulnerable to climate change and adverse natural phenomena like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
Suriname faces similar challenges to Sint Maarten’s, given to its size – including limited institutional capacity and skilled local professionals – to execute multiple technically complex projects. These constraints result in implementation delays for development partner projects.
Suriname manages a vast development program requiring strategic, cohesive, and efficient management and oversight. Currently, each development partner’s project is being implemented by an individual PIU which leads to fragmentation and inefficiencies.
“Moving towards a centralized PIU approach could represent an opportunity to streamline, reduce and allow for greater collaboration and information sharing,” said Diletta Doretti, World Bank Resident Representatives for Guyana and Suriname.
For these reasons, the Government of Suriname, was very eager to learn about the NRPB’s experience as a centralized PIU to customize this to the Surinamese context.
The Suriname delegation learned that the NRPB has managed to create a functional hybrid system consolidating local and external expertise and experience, with the World Bank’s guidance. The system enables the Trust Fund to fulfill its core mandate of building capacity and strengthening institutions for a sustainable and resilient Sint Maarten, for its people.
“We are very impressed with the institutional model that the NRPB has built. There is demonstrable, coordinated support through all levels of project implementation, from project management to human resources, from finance to procurement, and from environmental and social standards to communication. There is also a high level of transparency woven into the layers between the NRPB and its stakeholders,” said Sagita Jaggan, Deputy Director of Suriname’s Ministry of Finance and Planning and Head of the visiting delegation. “The NRPB makes a compelling case for Caribbean countries to have a permanent and centralized PIU, which leverages the smaller scale of our bureaucracies and human resource capacities for maximum effectiveness,” she added.
NRPB Director Claret Connor was happy that the Bureau is able to execute its mandate – with exemplary outcomes – and can now share this expertise with others in the region.
“The work that the NRPB does, and the capacity that this institution has built, is done on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten, for the benefit of the people of Sint Maarten. We will continue to implement these projects using the knowledge and experience that we have acquired through diligent and accountable implementation of the key projects under our care. At the same time, we are continuing to build local capacity to ensure that Sint Maarten is more resilient and ready for a future natural disaster,” he said.
Participants are hopeful that this exchange precipitates a vast network of connections and ideas with a distinct focus on sustainable development, capacity building and cooperation that will allow small states the self-sufficiency to build back better.